Tell us about how the Lighthouse Labs team started a coding bootcamp.

Khurram, our head instructor, actually runs a development shop in Toronto, he’s one of the partners there. He initially started teaching at a school called Bitmaker Labs, which was probably one of the first in Canada. We decided that we wanted to make a few changes to the model and we ended up coming to Vancouver to do that.

The main change we made is in class size; we really shrunk down class size. We only take 20 at a time. We have 5 students per TA and that number we stick to pretty tightly. It gets to 7 every once in a while. The reason for that is that we found that learning how to code is a very hands-on endeavor and you really need an environment where you have access to people to help you through the hurdle. A lot of boot camps run huge class sizes with very few TAs, and that ends up with students who are stuck for a long, long time. We didn’t want to drive our schools on students being stuck, we want them learning a lot of different things.

The team here is 4 of us on the ground. There’s myself, there’s Qaid who runs all our operations- who’s getting paid what, who we’re hiring, everything that isn’t education or sales. Jeremy runs our marketing group. Khurram handles our in-class experience. He hires all the TAs, sources all the TAs; he manages the curriculum, develops and executes on it.

Is Khurram your lead instructor?

Khurram’s our head instructor and we actually have about 17 TAs.

Wow, 17! Why so many? Do you cycle through those TAs?

We get our TAs from companies in the ecosystem like Bench, Hootsuite; there’s big players in the Vancouver market that give us TAs.

We hire TAs per hour, so we’ll have certain TAs on Monday nights and Tuesday afternoons, certain ones on Monday afternoons. The beauty of it is they’re all very different and not all of them are Rails developers because we don’t want to have only Rails people in the office. That’s because we focus on creating good developers, not so much just good Rails developers.

We just mix them up because different people have different learning styles, and having more TAs kind of allows us greater probability to hit everyone’s learning style as best we can.

Do those TAs have a hand in the hiring process once the bootcamp is over?

Yeah, for sure. One of the major benefits the companies have is they get 8 weeks to screen candidates. It’s not uncommon for us to finish a cohort and have TAs already knowing which students they want to recruit. It happens all the time. It’s a benefit for us, too; it helps us in placing our students and they get to source their junior talent in their company in a relatively easy way.

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